Pascal Soriot, lamenter of low pay, faces investor revolt for being overcompensated
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot once bemoaned his $13 million annual salary, calling himself the “lowest-paid CEO in the whole industry.”
Now, after his new, $18.5 million package came to light last month, AstraZeneca’s investors are complaining: They think Soriot is overpaid.
AstraZeneca is facing a shareholder revolt over Soriot’s pay package, Sky News reports, with investors warning that they plan to vote against the company’s remuneration report and policy at its annual meeting on April 29. The central issue is the annual amount put into Soriot’s pension. Investors have demanded the British drugmaker reduce it from 30% to the average pension award for a British worker. Instead, they cut it to 20% — still well above the average.
Although $18.5 million pales by comparison to some American executives, who can peak at over $50 million per year, European investors have traditionally taken a harder stance against what they see as executive overpays. Two other compensation moves also angered investors, Sky News reported: the directors’ decision to use discretion to award Soriot his annual bonus and their decision to bump long-term incentives from 500% to 550%. The latter points could prove particularly galling for activist investors during the Covid-19 pandemic, as the economy sputters and the executives of numerous large corporations take voluntary pay cuts. AstraZeneca has made no such moves.
Soriot has long argued that he is worth more than his 8-digit compensation package, pointing to an R&D pipeline that was considered among the worst in pharma when he arrived in 2012 and which he has since largely turned around, including with the success of EGFR cancer medicine Tagrisso last week. Peak sales for the drug are estimated at $8 billion.